Everyman steps up with its first world premiere

The Baltimore Sun

For its 15th season, Everyman Theatre will produce its first world premiere -- a wildly imaginative comedy by a regional African-American playwright and actor.

"When I read The Soul Collector by David Emerson Toney, I just fell in love with it," says Vincent Lancisi, Everyman's founder and artistic director.

"It gets funnier and funnier as it goes along. The play is about an uncle and a nephew who are African-American garbage collectors in a wealthy neighborhood. They both have dreams, but their dreams are flawed.

"David is a well-known actor and writer in Washington, and we're very excited to be introducing a local audience to his work."

The Soul Collector will feature Everyman ensemble member Dawn Ursula in the title role.

Theatergoers notoriously prefer established works to new plays, but Lancisi is confident that The Soul Collector will do well at the box office.

"We waited to mount a world premiere until we had developed an audience that trusts our programming," he says. "By now, 72 percent of our seats each season are filled by subscribers. It's gratifying to be at the stage where we can develop new and untried voices in the American theater."

The Soul Collector will be the final show in Everyman's season, running from May 20-June 28, 2009.

Other shows next season include:

Doubt, A Parable, by John Patrick Shanley, Aug. 27-Oct. 5. This provocative, Tony Award-winning drama is set in a Catholic school in 1964 and was inspired by the priest pedophilia scandals. The work features a charismatic, progressive priest and a self-righteous nun who suspects him of molesting the school's only African-American pupil.

"I come from a Catholic school education, and this play has been under my skin since the first time I saw it," Lancisi says. "Most people who have seen Doubt have seen it in large Broadway houses, but it gains so much when it's staged in an intimate environment like Everyman."

Filthy Rich, by George F. Walker, Nov. 5-Dec. 14. The show is equal parts film noir satire and detective story about a washed-up private eye hired to find a missing mayoral candidate.

"Nobody on this side of the border knows anything about it, but Filthy Rich is one of the most well-respected and frequently produced plays in Canada," Lancisi says. The theater has hired director Daniel DeRaey, considered one of the foremost experts on Walker's work in the U.S., to oversee the production.

I Am My Own Wife, by Doug Wright, Jan. 14-Feb. 22. This is the one-actor show that made longtime Center Stage favorite Jefferson Mays a Broadway star, and that nabbed both a Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize. It tells the real-life story of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, a transvestite who survived repressive regimes in Nazi and Communist Germany.

I Am My Own Wife will feature Everyman ensemble member Bruce R. Nelson.

Mays won a Best Actor Tony for the role, but Lancisi isn't concerned that the production will invite unfavorable comparisons.

"This, too, is a story that needs to be told up-close and personal," Lancisi says. "It's an acting tour-de-force that will take every ounce of Bruce's emotional life, intelligence and stamina. But, I know he's up to it."

The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov, March 18-April 26, will feature five Everyman ensemble members. The play tells the story of the Ranyevkaya family, members of a decaying nobility, who face the loss of their grand estate and their own obsolescence.

"This play is so rich with conflict and irony and longing for the past," Lancisi says. "It varies between tragedy and comedy -- sometimes from line to line.

"This is the kind of big play we like to do in this cozy space. I think it will blow the roof off."


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